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On December 21, 2010, Aaron Zelman, founder and executive director of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, author, producer, advocate and educator, passed away in Hartford, Wisc.
WND published a brief obituary on December 29, but I have held off commenting on the passing of my friend until the reality of the tragedy could sink in and the future of his important work could be determined.
When I first received news that Aaron had died, I was shocked and disbelieving. I was sure it had to be a mistake. This couldn’t be the Aaron Zelman I know; he was only 64, and I was unaware of any illness. I had just spoken with him a few weeks prior, and he was just as energetic, committed and determined as ever, but I finally confirmed that it was no mistake. What a tremendous loss – for his wife and sons, for his friends and for all lovers of liberty.
When Aaron Zelman first established JPFO back in 1989, while it was welcomed into the fight, it was seen by most in the gun-rights community as a niche organization with a narrow appeal and limited potential.
The fact that so many of the leaders among gun prohibitionists were and are Jewish had long been a source of confusion for rights advocates. With a history of oppression, subjugation and persecution – both by mobs and governments – it was mind-boggling how prominent Jewish politicians and leaders (much like prominent black leaders) could advocate their own disarmament.
But it is always difficult for an outsider to question or challenge a group’s beliefs and positions, so we were glad to see a group of Jews stepping up and questioning their own leaders. It turned out that Aaron and other Jews had seen the same non sequitur in Jewish attitudes that we did, and their first ad for JPFO threw down the gauntlet in Aaron’s typically blunt fashion declaring that, “Not all Jews are stupid or pro-criminal, but Charles Schumer is both.”
JFPO’s opening salvo was clearly not something any non-Jewish group could have ever considered saying, but we all cheered when Aaron said it.
Zelman and JPFO continued to raise hackles – amongst gun controllers and within the rights movement – with startling claims and sweeping demands. Even Neal Knox and his famous “no compromise” attitude found Zelman and company’s claims and demands to be somewhat over the top and intransigent.
When Aaron and co-author Jay Simkin released their book, “Gun Control: Gateway to Tyranny,” my father was initially not enthusiastic. While he appreciated much of what Zelman and Simkin had to say and agreed that much of their rhetoric was compelling, he felt that their assertion that the Gun Control Act of 1968 was derived directly from Hitler’s Nazi gun-control laws of 1938 was an overreaching exaggeration.
Dad ate his words on that one as Zelman and Simkin produced proof that Connecticut Senator Thomas Dodd, author of GCA ’68, did indeed have a copy of the Nazi laws and had requested and received a full translation of those documents from the Library of Congress.
A copy of Dad’s mea culpa article is included in our book, “Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.” Looking at original drafts of the GCA side-by-side with the Nazi laws (and the history that followed implementation of those laws), it is easy to see why Aaron was so vehemently opposed to gun control and so angry and frustrated with his fellow Jews for helping to lay the groundwork for repetition of such tyranny and tragedy through support of the same Nazi gun-control laws.
Something else that JPFO is famous for pointing out is the fact that, historically and statistically, government is much more dangerous than criminals.
As Aaron stated in an interview with Kirby Ferris, “Governments have murdered far, far more people throughout history than all the street criminals who ever lived.”
Germans didn’t believe their government could ever engage in such genocide any more than Russians or Turks or Cubans believed their governments could. Americans who believe that “it can’t happen here” are ignoring history and their own experience. It wasn’t long ago that Americans believed socialism was as impossible in the U.S. as a man on the moon or a black president.
Zelman’s unique position as a member of an oft-maligned minority group allowed him to boldly challenge not only Jewish positions, but also those of other minorities. The JPFO documentaries “No Guns for Negroes” and “No Guns for Jews” are incredibly powerful and should be required viewing in every high school in the country. They can be downloaded from www.JPFO.org.
With the death of Aaron Zelman the nation lost a true lion of liberty. Thankfully he structured JPFO in such a way that it is able to continue even without his visionary leadership and passion. While JPFO is, and always should be, managed and directed by Jews, membership in the organization is open to anyone of any race, religion or ethnic background. As a tribute to Aaron and his dream of liberty, I hope many of my readers will join me as supporting members of JPFO.